The Power of Eye Contact
One of the things we talk about in Presentation and Communication generally is the power of eye contact.
Is it really all that important?
You bet it is.
The cliché that the eyes are the window of the soul may be true or not, but the point of being able to look at someone is to engage with them.
People simply listen better to someone who has given them eye contact because they feel connected.
Without it, you may as well record your message and sent it because it does play such a vital part in getting a message across.
First, let’s look at Presentation.
Have you ever been to a presentation of any kind whatsoever and felt (even in a large lecture hall) that the speaker was singling you out (in a positive way); where you felt you were even participating in a conversation even if it was one-way?
Equally, have you ever been to a presentation where even when you were interested in the topic, you didn’t feel any link to the speaker?
We can bet that even if you weren’t aware of it the speaker in each instance was either fantastic at sharing out his/her eye contact or wasn’t at all.
There’s a speaker in my neck of the woods who’s a historian and gives talks on the most divine subject, but after attending a couple of her intriguing sounding lectures I stopped going.
This was someone who either spoke to her notes or spoke to the screen.
Never once did she give any eye contact to her eager audience. And because of that, I felt completely disengaged.
When we run Presentation, Communication and Personal Impact courses we include an exercise which helps to demonstrate the power the listener has in any face to face conversation.
It’s really simple – we ask the listener to ‘turn down’ their listening behaviour including taking away any eye contact.
As soon as the listener takes away a powerful aspect of their listening behaviour - i.e. eye contact, it immediately can make the speaker feel differently about the value of what they have to say.
So, when you're in front of a larger audience presenting or public speaking.
Make eye contact
Even though having a lot of pairs of eyes looking directly at you can be immediately terrifying and intimidating, it's not generally as thoroughly dispiriting as a lot of people removing their eye contact from you, once you have it!
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde
"The only thing worse than being looked at is not being looked at"
Eye contact is powerful because it can have so many different effects - as some very wise person told me once - it can be warm, engaging, sociable, flirtatious, intimidating, inappropriate, accusatory, helpful, damning, loving etc.
So, as a presenter or public speaker then, you can be very clear on the message you may wish to convey in the content of your presentation, but all this good work can in effect be completely undermined by a contradictory style of eye contact or indeed tone of voice.
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